New Beginnings

Today was the first morning that I was able to rise when I wanted and take some time for myself in a very long time. As I made my cup of coffee, I realized that, for once, I didn’t have to worry about squeezing in a deadline or making up work that I hadn’t had time to finish during the week. For once, I was able to be.

After graduating with my Master’s in Social Work on Friday, an enormous weight has lifted off my shoulders — as it has for many December graduates. Along with my classmates, I navigated a graduate degree during a pandemic, which was no easy feat. Between working as a freelance writer and editor, running a small online clothing business, completing all the requirements for a practicum (around 250 unpaid hours per semester) and class assignments, moving, planning a wedding, losing family members, and so much more, I realized that I have slowly started to neglect the things that were central to who I was.

In my home, there’s piles of laundry that haven’t been folded, a half-decorated Christmas tree with unwrapped presents underneath, a few dirty dishes laying around, and wilting Golden Pythos plant. Half-finished projects litter my planner, while stacks of books line my floor after being pushed aside for “more important” things.

Even though I made a huge decision to quit my job in Alzheimer’s research (which I loved) to pursue my childhood dream of being a writer, was completing a degree in a subject that I am extremely passionate about, and had found immense success in more than one area in my life, there was still something missing.

Much of what I had grown accustomed to in my daily routine was a blur of constant shuffling between spaces, whether that be the tabs on my computer or across the state. I had lost the sense of not only who I was, but where I had planned to go. I’ve spent so much time trying to meet the needs of what I thought everyone was expecting of me, without realizing that none of their opinions mattered unless I was happy with what I was doing and was comfortable in my own skin and home.

At 25, there’s this illusion that you should know exactly where your life is going; that you should be a homeowner, have a successful career, have a financial plan, etc. Feeding into that lie was the worst mistake I’ve made in my young adulthood. It’s only led to more stress that caused me mental strife, which could have been completely avoided.

Learning to find peace in the present moment is something that I’m learning to do each day. I still find myself worrying about what other people think, especially regarding my career. I’m slowly learning that you don’t have to have the “perfect job with benefits” to be successful, much less happy.

Would I trade the past two years for anything? Absolutely not.

Do I wish that I had spent more time taking care of myself and listening to my heart? Yes.

Now, as I move to a new chapter in my life and navigate the average (and not-so-average) challenges of being an adult, I want to take more time to spend with myself and the ones I love. It’s my goal to continue pursuing my writing, but starting to write for myself as well as writing for other people. I want to travel. I want to learn the stories of my ancestors and more about my cultural background.

There will be no more self-sacrifice where it is not needed.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past two years, it’s that the time we have on earth is short. At the end of the day, we should be proud of what we did rather than dreaming about the “what ifs.”

As you spend your Sunday preparing for the upcoming week and holiday season, I encourage you to think about the things that you’ve forgotten about. Whether it’s reminding yourself to take a deep breath when you’re stressed, or making a phone call to that person you haven’t talked to in a while, or finishing that passion project that you’ve been putting off, just do it. Don’t sacrifice the part of yourself that makes you happy to fulfill the needs of what you think others want.

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